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Hollywood Reporter
By
Hollywood Reporter
updated 5/22/2011 12:14:47 PM ET 2011-05-22T16:14:47

When the house lights came up at L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre on May 26, 2010, the night of the Season 9 finale, there was a widely held belief in the entertainment world that "American Idol" was going down.

Gone was the show's star judge, Simon Cowell, who had announced his departure four months earlier; its experiment with a four-person panel, which included daytime host Ellen DeGeneres and songwriter Kara DioGuardi, had ostensibly failed (both would exit the show within the next three months); and viewers less than enthused with the year's crop of contestants had started tuning out.

With ratings tumbling 18 percent on finale night and giant question marks looming on the horizon, the members of the "Idol" brain trust — which include creator Simon Fuller, FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Fox president of alternative programming Mike Darnell and executive producers Nigel Lythgoe (brought back after a two-season leave) and Ken Warwick, along with judge Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest — had their work cut out for them.

THR photos: Carrie Underwood's biggest 'Idol' moments

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How do you even begin to consider tweaking a program that's consistently brought in a weekly audience of more than 20 million viewers? The winning formula turned out to be a music trifecta: pop diva Jennifer Lopez, rock star Steven Tyler and record executive Jimmy Iovine, the combination of which resuscitated the show that remains a ratings powerhouse unlike any other series of the past decade. Of course, getting there was no song. For the first time, the stars and makers of "American Idol" reveal how its new identity came to be.

May 2010
Mike Darnell:
We started thinking about Season 10 about a month prior to the finale, and it was scary. To be frank, we weren't coming off our best season, and while the finale did fine, and it was a lovely tribute to Simon Cowell, that goodbye made it feel like the end of an era. You're like, "Well, where do we go now?"

Story: Drama! 'Idol' is unpredictably shocking this year

Cecile Frot-Coutaz: Everybody was saying: "I wouldn't want to be in your position. … I wouldn't want your job right now." There was also a lot of pressure internally. Like, "What are you gonna do? What's your plan?"

Darnell: And almost immediately, the press started in with, "Simon's leaving, and the show's having a bad year; it's not going to work again." People estimated it would be down 20 to 40 percent. It starts to get to you after awhile. And so we had to bear down and just say, "We gotta put together the best roster we can and hope that the talent's good." And we started our search.

THR photos: 'American Idol's' worst auditions of all time

Simon Fuller: My perspective was: Simon is a tough act to follow. You can't try and copy him or bring in someone to replace him, so we have to look in a different direction, a different spirit, a different feeling for the show.

Frot-Coutaz: I got really paralyzed because I was thinking of it as replacing him. You start making lists, like, "OK, what are his attributes? What makes Cowell work?" And you realize that you can't find that person because it doesn't exist. So I was stuck and thought, "This is mission impossible." Then sometime in June, I realized that was the wrong approach. We have to find a group of people who will be credible, have good chemistry and be entertaining.

Story: Carrie Underwood is 'Idol's' biggest earner

Fuller: I was thinking we needed someone who's more famous than Simon but also we had to rethink the show. We needed to kind of reignite "Idol," give it a new beginning. With Simon leaving, we had to bring back the spirit we may have lost and also instill a new element of energy and fun, so the next important decision was bringing back Nigel Lythgoe. He's an absolutely brilliant producer and a dear friend who's been with me from Day 1 and someone I trust implicitly.

Nigel Lythgoe: My feeling was that you have to go in a new direction. Whoever replaced Cowell would've been a pale imitation, so I certainly didn't want to go that way. After being welcomed back by the production team, I was also informed that, rather than having a leader — as there was when I was sort of running the ship — it was now done by committee, and that committee being Mike Darnell, Cecile, Simon Fuller and Ken Warwick. So it was an interesting first few months.

July - August 2010
Ryan Seacrest:
Ellen realized "Idol" wasn't the perfect fit for her and that on top of doing her daily show, it was a lot of work. She's a dear friend, I loved having her there.

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Randy Jackson: As for Kara, I think she found it hard to get her footing and figure out how she would fit into this thing. And with four people, the timing was difficult as well. It's tough to walk into something so established and become, not just the third wheel but the fourth.

THR photos: How Ryan Seacrest became the most powerful man in reality TV

Darnell: There were meetings, conference calls, video conferences between myself, Cecile, Fuller, [Fox chairman] Peter Rice, Nigel and Ken — for some, we were all together, others were piecemeal. But for me personally, it was thousands of phone calls, and that is not an exaggeration.

Frot-Coutaz: We met a lot of people, we looked at a lot of names. I wanted to make sure we didn't leave any stone unturned, hadn't made any assumptions and we'd gone as broad as we possibly could. There was no bad idea.

Darnell: We weren't sure what direction we were going, so we just kept taking meetings. We had a list: Mariah Carey was on it, Shania Twain, Harry Connick Jr. Cecile and I were the first line of defense, and we met with at least 40 people.

Frot-Coutaz: Then I had lunch with Randy Jackson, and we were brainstorming, and he's the one who said, "Have you thought about Steven Tyler?" We hadn't. It turned out Kara, who deserves some credit for this, had just worked with Steven, and she brought up the idea to Randy.

Jackson: Unbeknownst to Kara, I mentioned Steven to the producers. I thought, he's a guy where what you see is what you get. And I think these shows need more of that.

Darnell: I didn't know what I was looking for until Steven walked in. I kept hoping for a personality, someone different, who didn't fit into the mold. So I came into my office a little late, his back was turned, and I have a piano in my office which he was playing — not something rock 'n' roll-y, I think it was classical. He turned around, and I was wearing my cowboy hat, which I often do, and he looked at me and said, "You're a freak!" Then we just started talking. He was ultracool yet not snobby about music. He was so honest about his rehab and Aerosmith; he told me his father was a classical musician, that he listens to everything and that some music makes him cry. He was entertaining, just like you see him now. Having spent 40 years being a huge rock star, he didn't watch what he said, and I don't just mean him cursing. He was filter-less. We met for 20 minutes, and I knew that day. I literally ran to Peter Rice's office the minute he left and said, "We finally got one."

Seacrest: I remember Cecile telling me she was going to go meet Steven Tyler and she wasn't quite sure what to expect. He blew her away. She said, "You would think he's this tough, badass rock star, which he is, but he's probably got the biggest heart on the panel."

Darnell: Now with Jennifer, she was on Simon's lips and on his list, and we loved it. We were invested in her long before we had Steven.

Story: 'Idol' finale live chat with Craig Berman

Fuller: I had lunch with Jennifer and her manager Benny Medina at the Beverly Hills Hotel in April of last year to ask her to do a show with me called "Q'Viva." But as we were talking, I had in the back of my mind that she would be great for "Idol." So I brought it up halfway through the main course, maybe into the coffee and tea. I just threw it out there. She was a huge fan of the show, so she knew all about "Idol" — she was like an expert, actually. She watched it every season. Jennifer didn't say yes there and then, but I knew she was intrigued, and eventually I got her to do it.

Seacrest: I remember Benny Medina calling me after they had done all their meetings and seen all the players. He wanted some input, and I said: "Do it. She won't need it, but I promise you, I will always have Jennifer's back on that live show. She will be phenomenal."

September 2010
Darnell:
We hired them without having them sit together, and we didn't know how they would be dynamically, which is probably the most important thing when it comes to these shows. So I asked Ryan to invite them to dinner the night before we made our big announcement.

Seacrest: It was the four of us — no agents, no spouses, nobody else — and top secret. Cecile and I had talked about having us get together and shoot the breeze, just talk freely and openly about the show in the past and the future and what we can all bring to it. And within the first 12 minutes of us sitting in my living room, we could all tell that this was going to be fun.

Jackson: We got on like a house on fire. Ryan and I looked at each other and knew it was definitely going to work. Then some of the execs dropped by later, and they were like, "Wow, it's like old pals week."

Seacrest: Randy's telling stories about the Journey days, and Steven is telling stories about … well, he's got so many great stories. And he asked questions.

Jackson: I said: "Look, you can say whatever you want. You always have to call it as you see it and stand behind whatever you say. If you love something to death, love something to death. I don't care who says what — do you, always." It's exactly the same advice we give the kids. I think we were really blessed, finding two legends — and Jennifer was an avid fan of the show — who could jump into this. They were able and really felt the nurturing passion that a show like this requires.

Seacrest: Steven tells Jennifer that he just watched "The Back-Up Plan" and thought she was brilliant in it. Jennifer says, "Is that the reason you want to sit beside me on 'Idol'? 'The Back-Up Plan'?" And we all laughed. The next day we announced it.

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Darnell: The news that Jennifer and Steven were joining the show had basically leaked, and we debated whether we should announce it officially. We decided to do it at the Forum in September because leaks don't mean anything until you hear that it's official. And the crowd was out of their minds when Jennifer and Steven came out. It was exciting. It felt like a new beginning. We all sat on a panel and spoke to the press, and they were already charming together. The boys were protective over Jennifer. It was lovely.

Fuller: There are a lot of preconceived thoughts about Steven and Jennifer. They're known as these icons — but not people. Jennifer was always loved, but is she a diva? I think she was quite polarizing prior to "Idol," but as we got to know her, we got to see the sensitive, funny, compassionate, smart side. Then it's, like, "Hey, she's kind of cool."

Frot-Coutaz: Chemistry builds over time in working together, but we knew both would bring very different things to it. And that's what matters, ultimately, is to have different kinds of characters and points of views. Plus, they're both passionate people. Was it a gamble? Of course it was. Everything is.

Read the rest on HollywoodReporter.com.

Copyright 2012 The Hollywood Reporter

Photos: Top 13

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  1. 'American Idol' season 10

    The final two

    16-year-old Lauren Alaina, left, and Scotty McCreery, 17, will compete for the "American Idol" crown on Tuesday, May 24. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Getting the bad news

    A stunned Haley Reinhart, center, learns from Ryan Seacrest, right, that her "American Idol" run is over on Thursday, May 19. Lauren Alaina, left, advances to the final. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Si!

    Italian singing sensation Il Volo perform on "American Idol" on Thursday, May 19. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One more time

    Haley Reinhart sings her farewell song, "Bennie and the Jets," after being eliminated on Thursday, May 19. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Unlikely duo

    Nicole Scherzinger performs her new single, “Right There,” with 50 Cent on the show Thursday, May 19. Scherzinger will be one of the hosts on Simon Cowell's new show, "X Factor." (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Hometown girl

    Lauren Alaina appears at an AT&T superstore in Chattanooga, Tenn., during the homecoming celebration for "American Idol" finalist on Saturday, May 14. (Chris Mckay / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Smile, smile, smile

    Lauren Alaina waves to her many friends, fans and supporters as she rides by in a red convertible during a parade in Rossville, Ga., on Saturday, May 14. (Jenna Walker / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. She holds the key

    Finalist Haley Reinhart was given the key to the city of Wheeling, Ill., during her homecoming celebration on Saturday, May 14. (Timothy Hiatt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Center of attention

    "American Idol" finalist Haley Reinhart is welcomed by her hometown with a parade and ceremony during Haley Reinhart Day in Wheeling, Ill., on Saturday, May 14. (Paul Beaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Get to work!

    "American Idol" finalist Scotty McCreery bags groceries at Lowes Food Store in Garner, N.C., on Saturday, May 14. (Steve Exum / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Any requests?

    Scotty McCreery performs at an outdoor concert for local fans at his homecoming celebration at Buffaloe Park in Garner, N.C., on Saturday, May 14. (Steve Exum / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The final 3

    After the Thursday, May 12 elimination on "American Idol," Haley Reinhart, left, Scotty McCreery, center, and Lauren Alaina remain in the competition. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The bad news

    Ryan Seacrest, right, tells James Durbin, left, that he has been eliminated, as Scotty McCreery learns that he is safe for another week. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Last song

    Following his elimination on Thursday, May 12, James Durbin sang the Paul McCartney song, "Maybe I'm Amazed," which he sang during the second week of the live finals. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Enrique Iglesias

    Enrique Iglesias performs his new single, "Dirty Dancer," from the "American Idol" stage on Thursday, May 12. The singer announced his new tour, in support of his album, "Euphoria." (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Jordin Sparks

    Former winner Jordin Sparks performed her single, "No Air," on "American Idol" on Thursday, May 13. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The final four contestants on season 10 of "American Idol," from left, Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery, James Durbin and Lauren Alaina. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Out of Lusk

    Jacob Lusk hugs judge Jennifer Lopez onstage after being eliminated on "American Idol" on Thursday, April 5. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Look who's 'On the Floor'

    Jennifer Lopez shows the hopefuls how it's done as she performs her single "On the Floor" on Thursday, April 5. Her new album "Love?" debuted this week. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Time to go

    Jacob Lusk sings his farewell song after being eliminated. CTODAY.com's Craig Berman says, as Mentor Jimmy Iovine saw it, Lusk looked and sounded nervous, and "when you lose confidence, everybody knows it." (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Lady night

    Country trio Lady Antebellum performs the new single "Just a Kiss" on "American Idol" on Thursday, April 5. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. High five

    The final five contestants on season 10 of "American Idol," clockwise from top left, James Durbin, Lauren Alaina, Jacob Lusk, Scotty McCreery and Hayley Reinhart. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Leave 'em wanting more

    Casey Abrams, left, gets the word from Ryan Seacrest that he's been eliminated from "American Idol" on Thursday, April 28. The recipient of the only judges' save this season, Abrams went out in style with a rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" that ranks as the best exit number ever, says TODAY.com's Craig Berman. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Knock their Sox off

    Season nine runner-up Crystal Bowersox performs her new single "Riding With Radio" on "American Idol" on Thursday, April 28. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Let's get 'Lazy'

    Singer Bruno Mars performs "Lazy Song" on 'Idol" on Thursday, April 28. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Six shooting for the top

    The final six contestants on season 10 of "American Idol," from left: Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery, James Durbin, Lauren Alaina, Casey Abrams and Jacob Lusk. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Last of the wild cards

    Stefano Langone sings his final song after being eliminated on "American Idol" on Thursday, April 21. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. What planet ... ?

    Kanye West, right, joins Katy Perry for her single "E.T." on "Idol" on Thursday, April 21. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Hello, it's 'Goodbye'

    Season seven winner David Cook performs his new song "The Last Goodbye." (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Lucky 7

    The final seven contestants on season 10 of "American Idol," clockwise from left: Haley Reinhart, James Durbin, Stefano Langone, Jacob Lusk, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina and Casey Abrams. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. First guy to go

    Paul McDonald, center, waves goodbye as he is eliminated on "American Idol," marking the first time this season that a man was voted off the program. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. 'California' dreamin'

    Sporting long red locks again, Rihanna performs her new single "California King Bed" on "Idol" Thursday night. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. The champ is back

    Season one "Idol' winner Kelly Clarkson performs the duet "Don’t You Wanna Stay" with Jason Aldean. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Is this eight enough?

    The final eight contestants on season 10 of "American Idol," clockwise from left, Jacob Lusk, Haley Reinhart, Paul McDonald, Srefano Langone, Casey Abrams, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina and James Durbin. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. One for the judges

    Pia Toscano sings after being eliminated on "American Idol" on Thursday, April 7.

    The judges didn't take the cut from fans well. “I’m shocked. I’m angry. I don’t even know what to say,” J.Lo ranted.

    "I’m gutted. You’re one of the best singers in this. I’m never upset on this show, but this makes me mad. Really mad,” Randy Jackson told the tearful Toscano.

    "A mistake is one thing, but lack of passion is unforgivable. They’re wrong. She’s beautiful when she sings -- she’s a bird,” Steven Tyler added. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Something off his chest

    Iggy Pop struts his stuff in front of the judges' table while performing on "Idol" on Thursday, April 7. (Michael Becker / FOX) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Nine alive

    The final nine contestants on season 10 of "American Idol," clockwise from bottom right: Haley Reinhart, James Durbin, Pia Toscano, Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk, Stefano Langone, Paul McDonald, Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Two not for the show

    Naima Adedapo, left, and Thia Megia bid farewell after being eliminated on Thursday, March 31. The first four singers eliminated this season have been women, thanks to the judges’ use of the save on Casey Abrams last week. (Michael Becker  / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Diva style

    Fantasia returned to "Idol" stage and "took it back old school" for a performance of "Collard Greens and Cornbread" on Thursday, March 31. (Michael Becker  / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. 2 of out 3 ain't bad

    Thia Megia, left, Haley Reinhart, center, and Pia Toscano perform on "Idol" on Thursday, March 31. (Michael Becker  / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Oh, 'Rio'

    Jamie Foxx and will.i.am perform "Hot Wings," a song of the soundtrack to the movie "Rio." (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Strike up the band

    "Idol" contestants, from left, James Durbin, Paul McDonald, Casey Abrams and Stefano Langone perform on Thursday, March 31. MacDonald was among the lowest three vote-getters this week. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Final 10 plus one

    Usually only the top 10 Idol contestants go on to perform on "American Idol's" Live tour, but this year there will be 11. The singers are (clockwise from top left): James Durbin, Paul McDonald, Pia Toscano, Scotty McCreery, Jacob Lusk, Stefano Langone, Lauren Alaina, Casey Abrams, Naima Adedapo, Haley Reinhart and Thia Megia. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A Hulk-ing announcement

    Pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan makes a surprise appearance on "American Idol" to reveal the fates of James Durbin and Paul McDonald, who were both safe and going on tour. Hogan also gave Ryan Seacreast a pro-wrestling punch to the head, hurling him into the audience. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Jennifer Hudson returns

    Jennifer Hudson was back on the stage that made her famous to perform her new song, "Where You At?" "It feels good to be home!" she exclaimed. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Nail-biting time

    Ryan Seacrest reveals to Casey Abrams, left, and Stefano Langone who must "sing for their life." (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Saved by the judges

    Casey Abrams, who was voted off "American Idol" Thursday, reacts after being saved by judges Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Sugarland

    "Sugarland" took to the stage to sing “Stuck Like Glue.” (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Happy birthday, Steven

    Stevie Wonder sings to help celebrate Steven Tyler's 63rd birthday. “I’m speechless,” Tyler says. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Eleven sent

    The final 11 contestants on "American Idol," clockwise from top left: Pia Toscano, Stefano Langone, Lauren Alaina, Paul McDonald, James Durbin, Scotty McCreery, Naima Adedapo, Jacob Lusk, Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart and Thia Megia. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. No save tonight

    Karen Rodriguez gets the word, alongside host Ryan Seacrest, that she has been eliminated from season 10 of "American Idol" on Thursday, March 17. She did well enough in her last-chance performance to have judge Jennifer Lopez lobby the other judges for her, but not enough to earn the save. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Have a seat

    Fergie and will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas perform on "American Idol." (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. DeWyze man said ...

    Season nine winner Lee DeWyze performs on "Idol" on Thursday, March 17. Seacrest introduced him by noting that he’d gone from “salesman to superstar overnight.” (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Dozen done good

    The final 12 contestants on season 10 of "American Idol." Top row, from left: Pia Toscano (holding a Casey Abrams mask), James Durbin, Paul McDonald, Jacob Lusk and Scotty McCreery. Bottom from left: Haley Reinhart, Karen Rodriguez, Stefano Langone, Naima Adedapo, Thia Megia and Laurn Alaina. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Glow in the 'Aftermath'

    Former "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert performs "Aftermath" on the show on Thursday, March 10. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. A little Diddy

    Diddy-Dirty Money featuring Skylar Grey took the stage to perform "Coming Home" on Thursday night. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. First to go

    Ashton Jones, with Seacrest, is elimintaed on "Idol" on Thursday, March 10. Joining her in the bottom three were Karen Rodriguez and Haley Reinhart. (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. The finalists

    "American Idol's" Top 13 are (bottom row from left) Paul McDonald, Ashthon Jones, Pia Toscano, Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart and Scott McCreery. (Top row from left) James Durbin, Naima Adedapo, Jacob Lusk, Thia Megia, Karen Rodriguez, Stefano Langone and Lauren Alaina. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Casey Abrams

    Casey, a 20-year-old from Idyllwild, Calif., has fought every step of the way to continue in the competition. He was nearly eliminated during semifinals week when he had to be hospitalized for a stomach ailment two days before taping. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Thia Megia

    Thia, a 16-year-old from Mountain House, Calif., is one of the competition’s youngest hopefuls. During the semifinals, judge Steven Tyler said that her “pitch can be so perfect that it doesn’t matter what song” she sings. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. James Durbin

    James, a 22-year-old from Santa Cruz, Calif., is the only rocker in this season’s competition. His penchant for screams and his big stage personality have drawn comparisons to season eight runner-up Adam Lambert. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Pia Toscano

    Pia, a 22-year-old from Howard Beach, N.Y., got a standing ovation during the semifinals for her performance of “I’ll Stand By You.” (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. Lauren Alaina

    Lauren, a 16-year-old from Rossville, Ga., brought the crowd to its feet with Reba McEntire’s “Turn on the Radio” during the semifinal round. She first ingrained herself in America’s memory by singing Aerosmith -- with Steven Tyler -- for her initial audition. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Jacob Lusk

    Jacob, a 23-year-old from Compton, Calif., has a smooth, soothing voice that judge Jennifer Lopez compared to crooner Luther Vandross’s. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Haley Reinhart

    Haley, a 20-year-old from Wheeling, Ill., sang “Fallin’” well, but J.Lo thought she was too stuck in her head. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Paul McDonald

    Paul, a 26-year-old from Nashville, won high praise from the judges for his version of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” Judge Steven Tyler loved his style (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Karen Rodriguez

    Karen, a 21-year-old from New York, gave judge Jennifer Lopez goose bumps with her Spanish version of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.” It was a move that won America’s votes during the semifinals. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Scott McCreery

    Scott, a 17-year-old country crooner from Garner, N.C., was the first of the guys to become a finalist. He performed “Letters From Home” during the semifinals to clinch his spot. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. Ashthon Jones

    Ashthon, a 24-year-old from Nashville, was one of the judges’ wild-card picks. She performed “I Am Telling You” to win them over one more time. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. Stefano Langon

    Stefano, a 21-year-old from Kent, Wash., was the only male singer the judges picked for a wild-card spot. He performed “I Need You Now” for his last-chance performance, and Steven Tyler declared that the young singer “gilded the lily of your own passion.” (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Naima Adedapo

    Naima, a 26-year-old Milwaukee native, was the last of the judges’ wild-card picks. Steven Tyler said she was the new Ella Fitzgerald after she performed “Summertime” during the semifinals. (Michael Becker / Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery
    Michael Becker / FOX
    Above: Slideshow (71) 'American Idol' Season 10 - Top 13
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